Poetry-Thing Thursday: On Death We Dine

I close my eyes,
for a moment,
I see;
concrete gristle,
staining steel-gray skies.
Pale incandescence,
pocking them with light.
Beneath rolling clouds,
blackness splinters,
with blue-violet lightning.

Graffiti of neutral and violent hues,
splashes color here and there,
that color voices the voiceless’,
untimely, unrelenting despair.

In the distance,
billboards lighted,
like cheap, sidewalk,
window-whores.
Mannequins of humans,
caricatured creatures of beauty,
made to look like us.

Still, they can’t,
for they know nothing,
but to be beautiful,
when all the world around them,
reeks of poverty–
and ugliness entombed in despair.

The distant sound of traffic,
ever-present,
omnipotent,
but in relative ways,
for the masses, non-existent.

Yet somehow,
the air is unclear.
It tastes of those things,
which afflict the world so–
pain,
death,
poverty,
and the ever-present despair.

Somehow we carry on.
No reason to.
No explanation.
Just survival.
Scrounging, scavenging,
hoping for revival,
day to day,
until passing, old,
forgotten,
decayed.

On the streets,
and out of time,
we greet defeat,
and on death we dine.

Poetry-Thing Thursday: Colors

On a warm summer’s morning,
cool dew clings to grass.
Sunrise kisses the milk-white skin,
of her bare-naked breasts.

Cool pale meets hard pink.
It stiffens against the breeze.
She sits, leaned back,
arms propping her up.
to gaze at the awakened hues.

Bluish-green taints milk-white,
in lightning strike patterns,
from veins pumping crimson blood,
compelled by a red heart beneath.

Her head tilts back.
Sandy hair cascading.
The first rays of sun engulf it,
warm it with their soft yellow light,
and reveal the gentleness,
of motive in her ice-blue eyes.

To know her is to love her,
orange and daring,
but so very few do,
for the gray and the white of shyness,
make her humbling privilege gold,
atop her palette of affections.

Still she sits, until satisfied,
atop a verdant, dewy hill,
waiting for something,
no matter the color,
to move her back to life.

When it does not come,
she instead lies backward,
baring her self to blue skies,
and hoping, even dreaming,
for the Sun’s color-filled goodbye.

Short Story: Ritual for the Bereaved

She had skin like an ebony goddess with a face painstakingly carved from stone by masters’ hands. Sweat gleamed off her as if she’d been coated in lacquer, fired in a kiln. Beads of water formed streams, forced downward by gravity to mix with sweat. Her wiry hair was wild; stray strands cascaded down her face, jutted out from her bun-ponytail, and framed her prominent cheek bones.

She began at an edge of the black-mats in the wooden room. In her hands, thinly-curved steel of two katanas readied in a down-angled point at the floor. Her head hung, chin against chest, as her mind sank entered a placid trance. Her muscled thighs parted just enough to give her legs their due gait. Then, with a breath, she sprinted forward a pair of steps.

Her feet and calves worked in a spring. The blades remained motionless as she flipped forward, landed. Steel rose in double, whipped through the air with audible swipes, made inward slices. She spun on a single foot, a ballerina in a fouetté turn. The blades followed, parted to swipe one high and one low. Her body compelled them to follow through.

With a backward flip-kick, her wrists rotated, whirled the blades around. She landed, jammed them backward to penetrate phantom foes. The swords pulled free from the phantoms, fused with a wide sweep that saw them righted in her hands. She saw the swipes catch the throats of five armed men around and in front of her. Had they been there, she would have been deathly right.

Her powerful legs made a deep lunge, right hand thrust a blade forward, inward. The toes of her left foot dragged forward as she straightened, put her fists knuckle-to-knuckle. The mirrored steel shined from the large’s rooms LEDs, reflected half and quarter views of its innards. The reflections became blurs; the blades dropped, began to spin, whirl, twirl, while her body made small pirouettes and leaps.

She did a final, backward stab, eyes shut, then pulled the blades forward, flattened her arms outward. Her wrists angled to keep the blades flush with the t-pose, extend the breadth of her reach. Together, steel and skin sank back to her sides. The swords returned to their down-angled point, her chin once more against her chest as it heaved from exertion.

A door opened behind her, a scent like smoldering wood coals wafted over. A smile crept across her mouth. She turned on-heel, eyes open and head leveled. Before her stood a tall, equally dark skinned man. The white and gray that peppered his beard matched aged-eyes wrinkled at the corners. A large scar ran down the right side of his face, through his eyebrow and a piece of his upper lip, and made his smile unique, peculiar.

“Jazmin,” he said gruffly as he crossed the room.

She met him half-way, “Dad.”

“Am I interrupting, sweetheart?” He asked respectfully.

She shook her head, led him toward a corner to sheath her swords. She patted a towel at her neck with one hand, used the other to ready a water-bottle to drink, “What’s the what?”

He smiled, her lingo ever foreign. Such was the way of generational gaps between fathers and daughters. He knew the meaning of this particular phrase, sensed she was all business today.

He responded in kind, “Your assignment just came down from the top.”

She gulped a squirt from the bottle, panted, “Since when’s Dahl been giving you my orders?”

“Since the assignment concerns an old acquaintance,” her father replied seriously.

Her neck stiffened, eyes widened to match his, “You can’t mean–”

He interrupted gravely, “I do.”

Their eyes met with a hardened narrowness. Somewhere beneath her confidence and determination, Jazmin’s core was shaken. To hear such words meant any hope for peace was gone.

She spoke with a stiff spine, “When do we leave?”

“Now. There’s a van waiting.”

A quarter of an hour passed before Jazmin pushed her way from the gym and into the night. The Zen garden beside and behind the gym gurgled with a hand-made waterfall at the edge of its Koi pond. Japanese Maples in cement and paver-stone planters cast her in sparse shadows beneath the palette of copious neon signs and incandescent poles lighting the streets. She followed the cobble stone path along the garden’s outer-wall, found her father waiting before the an open side of a black van.

She gave him a look as if yet unprepared. He sympathized, “You know, I can talk to Rachel. She and I are old friends. If she–”

“No,” Jazmin said definitively. “I trust her judgment. If she believes I can do this, then she knows I should.”

He gave a small nod. She tossed her duffle bag inside, gripped the vans roof with a hand to launch herself inside. He sighed, climbed in behind her.

It took almost two days to travel from Hong Kong to the remote region where they would find their mark. The Nepalese scenery of verdant, earthen hues and white-capped mountains would have been a jarring shift from Earth’s densest, rain-laced city were it not so gradual. Jazmin found herself enamored, but her joy was always quickly suppressed by the assignment at hand.

They reached the mark’s hideaway; a small temple on the precipice of a mountain where snow fell eternally in screaming winds. Her father led the way inside. Two pairs of blades readied, one after the other, and slipped through the temple’s double doors.

The woman was in her late forties, clearly honed from a life of agile aspirations and training. There was no incitement to violence– it was already clear in her eyes. Something said she expected the two assassins as more than a mark could. A clear spite was beneath the expectation: she’d been the one exiled, cast out for daring to challenge Dahl. In place of death, she was told to flee from beneath the sword at her throat and never return. The spark of hatred in her eyes then had since grown to a raging, animistic fire. Twenty years of planned revenge and festering rage still fueled it.

Her own blades were out. Jazmin and her father were ready. One of each of their blades blocked the woman’s. The free blades sank through her fleshy torso beside one another. Her eyes went wide. Blood trickled from a corner of her mouth. Jazmin and her father pulled back together. The woman shriveled to the floor. The thirsty, aged planks beneath her lapped up blood that spilled down her sides. She gasped on the floor, eyes distant and glazed.

“Jazmin,” she whispered.

The girl knelt beside her to listen carefully. Her dying breaths were on her, all of them knew it.

She wheezed a wet breath, “T-take my swords. T-they ar-are yours n-now.” Jazmin gave a singular nod with a blink. The woman raised a bloody hand to caress Jazmin’s cheek, “You’re so beautiful.” Eyes began to tear up. “I-I’m s-sorry I couldn’t be there to see you grow.”

Jazmin took her hand, “Shh. It’s okay. I understand.”

At that Jazmin was sincere, she understood the woman’s absence, the rationale for her exile, even the anger that had prompted the attack that led to it. More importantly, Jazmin understood why there was no epic fight; simply, it was easier for all if her death was quick, in defense of themselves.

She squeezed Jazmin’s hand, “N-never f-forget that I l-love you, sweetheart.”

Jazmin suppressed her own tears, “I love you too, mom.”

The life left her mother’s eyes and her body went limp. There was no one to blame; not her adulterous father whom caused the challenge to Dahl, nor herself that put the blade to her, not even the exile whom sought revenge, consigned herself to her fate by declaring all out war on the Order. She would have never hurt her family, but even Dahl knew she couldn’t allow anyone else to take the assignment, put down her would-be assassin.

Jazmin collected her mother’s blades and sheathes, slung them over her back, then lifted her for a pyre she and her father had already built. Absent or not, respect was due, and if there was anything the Order knew, it was the importance of rituals for the bereaved– no matter whom put the blade to the mark or why.

Bonus story: Preparing For The Hunt

She sat at the bar in one of the nondescript dives darkened against its regulars ugly mugs. Stale beer and smoke lined the air in a visible haze with more than hints of desperation and depression beneath them. Places like this were a dime a dozen in a mega-city like Neo-Chicago. Over the decades the hustle and bustle of white and blue-collar bodies and El-trains morphed into the steady bob and weave of crowds two and three times their elder’s size. Over them were the intermittent whir of the light-rails and near-silent engines of electric, public and private transports. Gusts of wind from the city’s collective– albeit quiet– roar, made the Windy City’s name all the more apropos.

She’d been there at least six hours, had nursed two or three drinks in that time. Obviously of the Femme Fatale variety, she was all decked out in leather, calf-high boots, and pierced just about everywhere to be seen– and in a few places that couldn’t be. The metal accented piercing, blue eyes that would swallow whole anyone whom looked into them. Straight, brown hair fell around her leather shoulders that folded and crinkled in as she sipped a warm beer.

Her eyes were drawn sideways as a man entered the bar across the room. A gust of wind blew his clothing with a wild tousle from a passing train, sucked the door shut in a slam. He marched up to the bar, ordered a scotch, threw it back. He slammed the glass down, motioned for another pour. She watched him carefully, one leg crossed over the other at the knee on a high stool.

“Rough Day?” She asked behind a drink.

He made a half nod, slugged back another shot, slammed the glass down again, “Laid off.”

She raised a brow, spoke with a curiously still upper-lip, “Sounds rough to me.”

He cast a glance at her, saw her in full; a hint of arousal tainted the air, as it did with all the men that saw her for the first time. Most never got past the first advance, but something about her said she might let him go further, if not all the way, just for the fun of it.

He leaned on an elbow to face her, “Never seen you here before.”

She gave a sly smile, “I’d imagine I’m here when you’re working.”

He smirked, “Well my the day’s not so rough then. What d’you do then?”

Her mouth made grandiose motions with the words, “This and that.”

He inched along the bar toward her. She could smell the half-erection in his pants, the course of arousal that stank like a high-school boy’s locker room– all testosterone and revving engines. She tilted her head toward it for a silent, subtle whiff. He missed the movement, sensed her interest from the slight glaze of her eyes. In truth, her heightened sense of smell was as much a weakness as a strength– especially when hunting. All she needed was one, minor whiff to trigger the animal inside her.

She tongued her sharpened incisors and canines, kept them hidden from him. They were frightening at first appearance, kinky afterward. The result of a failed attempt to embrace an illness she’d received in her teen years, she’d learned the hard way not to show them prematurely.

He seemed to make a motion, as if to hesitate and ask her permission. She made no protest. He moved forward, allowed by the dulled glaze her thoughts had left in her eyes. Between her heightened senses and her careful evasion of baring her teeth, most of her inner-resources were too occupied to notice him before he’d sidled up beside her in his lean.

He slugged back another shot, eyed her body with a heavier breath than his last. Most would have missed it, even she might have, were she not so intent on remaining focused after the last oversight. The erection was probably full-on by now, or at least as full-on as denim would let it get. Her ultra-attentive eyes flitted downward at a lump, each breath through her nose tinted by his scent.

He ordered another shot with a twist and a wave that shifted the air toward her, bathed her in testosterone and pheromones. Her body trembled, her groin warm. Hot blood flowed through him, but she wanted it hotter, faster. She slid off the chair without volition as the bar-tender slid over shot.

She stopped him from drinking with a quiet lean, whispered into his ear, “I want you.”

The erection was full-on now. She eased back with a long, sensual inhale through her nose. Beneath her leather coat and t-shirt her nipples hardened, panties already wet with anticipation. She slugged back the shot, made eye contact. Her piercing blues swallowed him whole. He swayed after her as she led him out by a hand.

His feet clomped along, leaded by a curious insulation that left him numb to the world, but kept his body fiercely alight. They maneuvered out of the bar and into the alley beside it. It would’ve smelled of piss and trash were it not for the overpowering scents of animal lust. She pulled him to the back wall, the least offensive smelling of its depths. An aggressive shove threw him against the wall. Her hands writhed as her tongue fought to take control of his. He submitted, hand loose against her side as she slid down, ready to swallow him more wholly than before.

When she came back up a few moments later with a long swallow, she kissed up a trail his neck to suck at his collar bone. Then, her tongue skirted his jugular. Numbed by pleasure and confusion, he almost didn’t notice when she her teeth sank in. Hot blood flooded her mouth. A hand grabbed her hair with passion. Then, pain; his eyes went wide, neck struggled against her. He was light-headed by the time he saw his death coming.

She climaxed with loud, wailing moan as his last bits of blood drained from his pale body. She pushed away from the wall, chest heaving. His corpse slid sideways, limp and empty. Her tongue circled her mouth. She swallowed hard, the mixed ambrosia of sweet cum and coppery blood a cocktail of Nirvana. HPPD– Hypovolemic photo-phobia disease– had given her half the recipe, but she’d concocted the rest on her own. It made it all the sweeter to suck them dry before she drained them, once more embraced the term “vampire.” It was a romantic notion of course, she was just another afflicted soul, but whatever she was, she was grateful for it’s gifts.

She returned to the bar, gave the tender there a knowing look. When she sank back into her seat, she lifted her beer to nurse it, only to see a gaggle of men enter ready to drink and party. She tongued her sharpened teeth and once more prepared for the hunt.